Linda Ronstadt and Emmylou Harris have frequently collaborated over the course of their long careers. Their voices are made for each other in a yin-yang meeting of Ronstandt's rich velvet alto and Harris' songbird-sweet soprano. The Tucson Sessions takes their collaborations to new heights. A collection of covers and originals tracing various paths of love and loss, the performances seem to have breathed in the desert where they were recorded. Arrangements airy as the space between desert and sky are grounded by gritty guitars, splashed with color from folk instruments and filled with glorious harmonies.
"Western swing is nothing more than a group of talented country boys, unschooled in music, but playing the music they feel, beating a solid two-four rhythm to the harmonies that buzz around their brains. When it escapes in all its musical glory, my friend, you have Western swing.” - Merle Travis
…One wishes that Acoustic Arabia were longer; the disc is about 43 minutes long, and Putumayo could have easily come up with another 30 or 35 minutes worth of appropriate recordings. Nonetheless, Acoustic Arabia is yet another rewarding and thoughtfully assembled collection from the adventurous Putumayo.
I don’t know that Western Ballad will win new fans, but it has a number of very good songs to strengthen her repertoire. She certainly plays to her strengths, with a spacious acoustic landscape that lets the inflections in her voice be heard. I remain a fan, but admittedly hope that she finds a producer who will collaborate less and demand a bit more. And, of course, one who doesn’t advocate pedal steel.
Recommended Songs: “Memory of a Ghost,” “HIgh,” “Thunderhead”